Is BYOD really taking the enterprise by storm?

The enterprise is in the grip of a BYOD revolution, with workers shunning corporate IT and using personal devices instead. Or are they?

Compatibility issues

This is problem that could pour cold water over claims that mobile devices makes users more productive at work.

"A user might feel' they are being productive, but they often don't acknowledge the level to which they need to spend time working around various incompatibilities and limitations," said Freeform Dynamaics' Vile.

This is particularly true in companies where a plethora of devices running different operating systems and file formats are being used.

"[Employees] often don't appreciate the work they are causing others. For example, their colleagues may have to jump through hoops to open files or sort out formatting problems because they have used a non-standard word processor or presentation package," explained Vile.

IT departments can get round this by recommending devices that end users should opt for, as well as explaining that certain ones won't behave as expected in the workplace.

"Having said this, a relatively small number of devices account for the vast majority of BYOD iPhones, iPads, and certain models of Samsung or HTC smartphones. So, in practice, things are not as chaotic as they could potentially be," reasoned Vile.

"Some of the more switched-on IT departments also get round this by setting users' expectations and telling them that certain applications will work fine on the intranet for some devices, with a limited experience on some others, and with no guarantees for the rest."

BYOD business cases

Even if these challenges are met, companies need to ensure they're adopting BYOD for the right reasons, rather than as a way of dodging new kit investments.

"We are currently telling people to make sure they distinguish between the different needs of users, as BYOD is often an indicator of under-investment in equipment or failing to address a mobile need in their business," said Vile.

I still haven't heard anyone articulate a convincing business case for BYOD.

Routledge said there is an element of truth to this, but BYOD can help extend the life of companies' existing IT assets.

"That's how many businesses justify [embracing] BYOD, but the actuality is that people are going to bring their own devices into the workplace regardless, so they may as well take advantage of this to get more productivity out of their workers," he explained.

"If you look at the PC market, it is fairly depressed...because organisations are sweating their IT assets, and there are so many firms still running Windows XP on five, six, seven or even eight-year-old PCs...Very few people have devices that old at home, and companies can seize on that."

Using personal devices for corporate reasons also means people can cut down on the number of devices they carry with them, according to Osborne Clark's Hayes.

"We're seeing more [of our employees] want to [combine] corporate and personal devices, because it's a more efficient arrangement," he explained.

Even so, a company-wide BYOD programme is unlikely to be the best course of action for everyone, argued Vile, and could when tax, network issues and compatibility problems are considered end up costing businesses more in the long run.

"A more cost effective and sustainable solution is often not a broad BYOD programme, but a properly-funded and supported deployment of modern company kit...and the trick is to find out where and when BYOD makes sense," said Vile.

"I still haven't heard anyone articulate a convincing business case for BYOD beyond keeping VIP users happy. Even then, if I had a senior manager or tops sales guy, I would rather give them kit that is desirable and supportable than muck about with BYOD."

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